The Thin Red Line

Bomb Rating: 

Is this a war film or a Jimmy Buffett concert?

Beware: A major spoiler is revealed in this review. If you don't want to have your experience of the film changed, please don't read any further. However, if you accept Mr. Cranky's opinion that this movie is big, steaming pile of elephant dung, knowing that the main character is killed off in the end isn't going to change your opinion one way or another.

Do you remember what it was like getting a dental examination when you were four? Think about it. A confused little kid lies squirming in mental and physical agony while a balding middle-aged guy with sharp metal tools roots around in the kid's mouth for what seems like forever. And ever. And ever. Now imagine this scene without the balding middle-aged guy, but keep the confusion and anguish, and you've pretty much replicated the experience of watching "The Thin Red Line."

It's one thing to watch a three-hour film that has a story. It's quite another to sit through a three-hour film wherein the closest thing to a narrative is a series of shots of colorful birds. Is this a war film or a Jimmy Buffett concert? On the surface, director Terrence Malick is supposedly telling the story of the World War II battle of Guadalcanal. The studio even tries to fool moviegoers with trailers that make it look like an action film. If they define action as "people sitting on their asses, ruminating," I suppose it qualifies.

The movie is filled with dull characters who think out loud and make a habit of gazing at the trees or the grass and then contemplating what it all means. Private Witt (Jim Caviezel) thinks about the human condition; Private Bell (Ben Chaplin) thinks about his wife; Captain Staros (Elias Koteas) thinks about his men; and Lt. Col. Tall (Nick Nolte) thinks about getting a nude massage from Carrot Top. I thought about how a well-placed grenade in the middle of this mind-numbing dinner party would vastly improve the quality of my life.

I spent the first half of this film wondering when the characters were going to start shooting something, preferably each other. Two hours later, I was simply waiting for it to end. Every two minutes thereafter, I lifted my ass a hopeful half-inch from my seat when Malick either faded to black or played some solemn music. After thirty minutes of being jerked around like this, I just wanted to scream, "Sweet Jesus, shoot me! Shoot me!" When Pvt. Witt, the main character we'd followed from the opening sequence, finally died, I thought "Thank Christ," but the movie stumbled on for yet another half hour like a meth addict with a spear through his head. When it finally, mercifully ended, I had to request a crowbar from the usher so I could remove the seat cushion from between my clenched butt cheeks.

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